Building your own eyeshadow palette is easiest when you understand your own preferences. Examples: If you love mattes and only use a few shimmers, the number of mattes vs. shimmers in your palette should reflect this. If you prefer less smoky looks, then you want to make sure you have less deep shades. If you rarely wear color in the crease, make sure you’ve chosen more neutral-toned transition and crease shades.
I highly recommend using our Color Stories tool to create and rearrange your own palettes, assuming you’re working from products I’ve photographed/swatched! You can also start in the Swatch Gallery, compare selected shades, and then “save as color story” those compared shades into a Color Story to rearrange, remove, and refine.
I also wrote a post on how I built my own 24-pan ColourPop palette here.
Here are some things I look at when I want to create a Color Story…
I find it is easiest to create a color story when I have a theme. It could be something like “space” and then choosing colors and finishes that remind me visually of space. It could be based around a color, like greens, or it could be based on function, like “work-friendly.”
Number of Shades
When you build your own palette, it can contain anywhere from a handful to a few dozen eyeshadows, depending on the size of the empty palette you’re starting with! Four is a good minimum to think of, and if you’re newer to building your own palette, I’d say 12 to 15 shades is really plenty to start with!
Cohesive or Complementary?
If you want a cohesive palette, then you’ll need to start with a smaller “core” set of shades–these are the themed colors–and then add your necessary transition and brow bone shades based on your skin tone. Complementary palettes are ones that can be paired with products you already own, whether that includes other singles or a standalone palette.
Create Individual Looks
For example, if you are using the theme of “work-friendly,” then you might look for a brightening shade for all over the lid, a darkening shade (for crease/transition), and a brow bone highlighter. It might be useful to put together trios or quads of colors that you’d use in a look, and then start grouping them together. You can then eliminate shades that overlap more than necessary, or if you find you like one type of shade more than the other.
Step by Step: 12-Shade Green Palette
Here’s a look at the process! I started with different “quads” of looks from past color stories I’ve created using Sydney Grace single eyeshadows. I love green, so I went for a more green-themed palette. I figured I’d look to get to 12 shades for the final palette, so I ended up starting with 7 “quads” of looks I think I’d enjoy using, which resulted in 28 eyeshadows for consideration.
Step 1: Kitchen Sink
The first thing I did was pull out shades that didn’t work well with most of the shades that I’m interested in. Shades like Lemon Sorbet and Deep Desire were pulling yellower and more orange, so I didn’t think those made sense to include.
Next, I looked at all of the matte shades to see if there were any shades that were similar or overlapping to the point where both were superfluous. Haystack and Back Woods were similar with one being yellower and one being a little more olive green, and I felt like the warmth of Haystack would be more versatile as a crease color for me; plus, Wildlife and Bravo were both similar but greener, so I could layer Haystack with either.
I liked the depth of Bravo a bit more for my preferences, so I could also eliminate Wildlife. Island Paradise and Trailhead were also similar, but the quality of Island Paradise seemed better. Hot Chocolate and Caramel were comparable, and I decided to go with Hot Chocolate for the extra bit of richness it brought.
Then, I repeated the process by looking at all of the shimmer shades to remove overlapping shades. Levy, To Earth, and Timber were all darker, cooler greens, but I liked the finish and contrasting gold shimmer of Levy that I didn’t think it was as similar to the other two. As a result, To Earth seemed a bit darker and not as metallic, so I felt like it offered more contrast against Levy. I loved all of the other shimmers too much to make any moves yet… I managed to narrow it down to 21!
Step 2: Initial Refinements
Now, the “quads” I created are out of sync, so the next step was to recreate the quads of “looks” and see how that came together, which makes them look more cohesive so I can have a better sense of the direction of the color story.
Step 3: Reset
With a reset of the remaining shades into “quads,” I saw that the more taupe-like shades like Somber and Enjoy the Ride stood out, and I had to figure out if I really want to go in that direction–and I didn’t, so I was able to remove those two shades. I felt San Diego would complement the cool/warm vibes I have going on more than Peanut Butter, which was warmer, so off that one went. Take the Time and Meadow looked less and less like they belonged as they were brighter, grassy greens, and I had so many more muted, warm browns and olive greens. This brought me to 16 shades.
Step 4: Further Refinements
To get to the final 12 shades, I tried to think about how I’d use the palette and what other products I own or what other palettes I could use with it. A shade like Midnight was all well and good, but I have a lot of black eyeshadows and I rarely use full-on black eyeshadow enough for it to take up a whole spot, so away it went!
Midnight Gold and Rustic would likely serve a similar purchase for me, so I kept Rustic as it had a stronger olive undertone. Evergreen was a gorgeous color, but functionally, I’d use it in the crease with shades like To Earth, Herky Bird, and Levy–the same shades I’d use with Island Paradise. Island Paradise gave me more of the muted vibe I was going for, though, so Evergreen was eliminated.
Now, my palette ended up more shimmer-heavy, so I started looking at similar shades again: Cadet, Commission, and Herky Bird were similar enough, even though they weren’t the same. I think Cadet was more like a lighter version of Herky Bird, and I like the yellower tone that Commission brought to the party (more versatile), so that meant goodbye to Cadet!
Step 5: Reassess
The last step was to revise and reset back into quads again and make sure that it gives me the looks I want. Once I did that, I noticed that Hot Chocolate was too red and just didn’t work as easily with other shades in the palette. I still wanted a brownish tone but something warmer (but still with depth) so I ended up bringing in Tippy Taupe instead for the final 12!